Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Compare cell phone plans using Wirefly's innovative plan comparison tool ×
User Journal

Journal Journal: / of all evil

I don't know whether to blame Andrew or Hans for this one, but thanks to one or the other, I lost my / partition and some data (not much, thankfully). It better have been one of the -mm reiserfs patches because I've since entrusted pretty much everything to the atomic goodness of reiser4.

I'm most convinced the corruption came from an -mm based patchset but I can't be sure :/ On the plus side, this meant I swapped in a 160gb drive for a 120gb, and I can still use the 120gb for backups (which I'm going to be making regularly from now on [yeah, right]).

User Journal

Journal Journal: "Debian Stable is ancient"

Alright, this is really getting old (excuse the pun). All of this information is available at, the Debian wiki, and the internet at large, but somehow people still spout inanities about the Debian distributions.

Debian always has at least three active distributions: Stable, Testing, and Unstable. These names do not mean what you think they mean. Unstable and testing do not necessarily crash all the time. The names refer to the distribution holistically.

Stable is currently codenamed "Woody" and was released on July 19th, 2002. Nothing will be added to this release other than security updates. Installing new packages and kernels on Stable defeats the entire point of running it in the first place and makes baby Jesus cry. You can do it but if you do it a lot, start tracking a different release. Typically Stable is used for critical servers.

Testing is where packages go once they have undergone some degree of testing in Unstable. It's supposedly always on the verge of being a a release candidate. Packages here are more current than Stable and less erratic than Unstable. However, not all the bugs have been ironed out yet and Testing does not enjoy official support from the Debian security team ( Eventually Testing will be "frozen" (no new packages unless they contain release-critical bug fixes) and be declared Stable. At this point the previous Stable distribution gets archived and the new Stable distribution is released. So, when Sarge finally becomes Stable, Woody will be "put back in the cupboard" with Potato and Slink and Sarge will become Debian 3.1 (probably; I'm not sure how version numbers are determined). Typically Testing is run on non-critical servers or desktops.

Unstable is always called Sid. As well as being the boy next door who destroyed toys, SID is also (unoffically) an acronym for "Still In Development". Any package here may have critical bugs and may conflict with other packages. For me using Unstable on the desktop has resulted in nothing more than minor glitches, however, there have been severe bugs in Unstable. Probably the most famous of which is when Pam broke, meaning no one -- not even root -- could log in. YMMV. Typically Unstable is run on desktops or development servers.

There is also Experimental which is not a distribution at all. Packages here are inconsistant and of alpha release quality. There is no automated build process for these packages so invariably they're only i386. Most Experimental packages have at least some known release-critical bugs. Users are strongly discouraged from using packages from here; typically these packages are developer fodder only. Caveat aptor.

So what does this all mean for Joe Linux?
Stable -> Server@work.
Testing -> Desktop@work or *@home.
Unstable -> LatestAndGreatestDesktop@home.
Experimental -> Never@ever.

User Journal

Journal Journal: workspaces

Switched from 1 row of 8 workspaces to 2 rows of 5. God bless you wnck-applet! Multiplexing -- whether it be on the terminal or the desktop -- is awesome. Simple as that.

I've started using multiple windows in a web browser again. Tabs are excellent but too many (>30) and it becomes a pain to manage them. This way I can have a maximised 'work' (supposedly) web browsing session on workspace 6 and news/shopping on workspace 1 (along with a tabbed gnome-terminal [screen sessions in each tab], tabbed gedit, and tabbed gaim -- what a ton of tabs!).

The metadata features (Spotlight) of OSX Tiger salvaged from BeOS sound pretty cool. I hope they make it into GNOME. The way it's going I have a feeling that the GNOME developers will consider such a feature "too difficult" for users to understand.

Ordered a Daring Fireball Tee (much-o spiffyness) after scrounging money off a friend. Having to borrow money always sucks, though :/

HDTV tracker was alive today but has died again :E
Just fucking leave it up already. I'm not the only person still getting these torrents.

User Journal

Journal Journal: passwd

"If you're using a [a-z0-9]{0,8} password you deserve to be cracked."


Well, the rampant paranoia of the MD5 online cracking thread prompted me to change all my passwords...To 10 and 30 characters (inc. captials and punctuation; no, nothing not found on the keyboard) for user and root, respectively. Fucking hard to remember, though. I considered adding another phrase to the root pass which would take it up to 50 chars...

Also checked if my Netgear router does have a 'superman' back-door and it doesn't.

User Journal

Journal Journal: But Windows is stable!

I've only been playing with this laptop for a few hours, and it may well have hardware problems that I don't know about, but it's crashed (not BSOD, just error messages and switching back to an 8-color palette), ooh, must have been 6 times while I was reinstalling software on it.

Yeah, but XP is stable </whine>

Conceivably, it could be an "XP home" only issue, and I'm sure that the 'leet' warezed version of XP pro is completely stable.

Cool, I got rewarded for my efforts with 2 bottles of Coke and a bottle of Vodka. Quite a nice gesture :)

I did cop out of installing Debian in the end. He admitted that neither of them would use it. Maybe if a worm slips past the Windows firewall they'll be prepared to switch.

I hope XP's firewall is permissive enough...the user-friendly dialog seemed to imply that it's now blocking everything except ICMP but who knows. If it isn't then I'm bound to get blamed.


Got wireless router/switch on Thursday :) Netgear 54mbps one with 4-port 100mbps switch and asdl modem. I hope it doesn't have the 'superman' backdoor, though :/

Had a bit of a 'blonde' week. One of my moments wa s wondering why I couldn't get to the router when ppp0 was up. Of course I eventually realised that /etc/ppp/ip-up starts my firewall...heh :/

User Journal

Journal Journal: cleaning

Goddamn it. #BT have cleaned all the torrents I was getting off of their tracker. 84% (294mb) gone. Now at 300kb from edonkey going at 0kb/s.

Today is indeed a good day to die.

* * *

Spoke to sales girl from Nildram about DSL. I asked if they could test the line and tell me what services (if any) they could offer me come August. She said they'd have to wait for BT to enable the exchange. Yeah, because doing a line test now would be crazy. Whatever, she's only a sales girl, and sounded nice enough to me :p

Anyway, they're going to contact me when BT have completed the work and tell me just how shit my connection will be.

* * *

I get to try the new beta4 d-i next week :) I really hope getting Debian on to this Toshiba Satellite 1110 isn't too much of a chore. If it was for my own use I wouldn't care but it's for a friend who's sick of Windows spyware/virus/worms/trojans. The trouble is that neither he or his gf are geeks, or even vaguely technical, so I have to get everything (acpi, touchpad, winmodem) working as fast as possible. Plus I have to reinstall (actually, probably 'restore') XP home and OfficeXP. All for free. Being a doormat is great.

The trouble is (again) my connection. I don't want to be installing unstable on his laptop, really, but then I don't want to be downloading 400mb of testing either. I guess he'll have to like what he gets. I'm already downloading the d-i & openoffice (~180mb), neither of which I have a use for. Being a doormat is great.

My passive-aggressiveness may just kick in because I doubt they'll use Debian anyway. After all, Windows is "good enough" and his gf "needs" Word. The only thing that I see that they need XP for is running Encarta04. God, I don't even know what they're printer is and I won't have access to it when I'm installing. It's going to be a fucking pain. Going to have to setup no-ip and SSH, I think.

Come to think of it, I might have use for the d-i if I can find a cd-rom drive for my p2-233...

Also have someone else dropping off a Windows desktop that "the internet" doesn't work on :/

User Journal

Journal Journal: unstable

Today's dist-upgrade reminded me that unstable is exactly that. Pesky gnome2.6!

If gnome-applets (I see there's an update for this...perhaps that solves things) and gnome-settings-daemon crap out, `rm -r /tmp/orbit-$USER` and restarting X (/etc/init.d/gdm restart on Debian) seems to fix things.

Fortunately, nothing major broke today :)

User Journal

Journal Journal: .screenrc

Got online again Friday thanks to a new USR 56k external modem. The old Lucent chipset winmodem died a peculiar death earlier in the week. It still dialed but it wasn't actually sending tones down the wire. I thought perhaps the jack had come off the board but I couldn't see anything physically wrong with it.

The good: No more problems with Linuxant drivers.
The bad: Spending $$$ on something that will become redundant in 37 days when DSL is finally available here.

Oh yeah, let's talk about that for a second. The engineer estimates distance from the exchange at ~5km, meaning that I may not be close enough to get ADSL. However, RDSL (Rate adapative) has a range of 11km so I will definitely be able to get that. I've also heard that all ADSL is actually RDSL anyway...

So, the bottom line here is that my connection may be absolute shit depending on line noise. Surprise, sur-fucking-prise.

* * *

screen.jpg [556Kb]

Another productive Sunday.

Really awful GIMP jpeg compression on the black-on-red irssi topic there. Don't know if that's the GIMP or just JPEG in general. Oh well.

That's shot of my fullscreen terminal workspace (workspace 4) under gnome2.6. Of course, it would be pretty wasteful to run gnome if that's all I was running but I like to have GUI apps on the other workspaces.

Anyway, the topic in #screen says, "someone document the hell out of...window title setting". As that's one of the things I've done I'll document some of the customizations that I've used here.

The screen man page is actually pretty helpful. All I did is follow it pretty much. The two lines I have in .screenrc that pertain to window naming are:

bind R screen -t '# |root: ' su
shelltitle '> |bash'

and then this in .bashrc (root's too if you want commands run as root to dynamically name the windows):

if [ "$TERM" == "screen" ]; then
PROMPT_COMMAND='echo -ne "\033k\033\134"'

If I find out how to make the default title anything more than a simple string (PWD would be nice), I'll let you know.

Hardstatus looks like

hardstatus alwayslastline "%{= wk} %c:%s %{= KW}%11=%{+b}%2`%{-b}%20=%3`%39=%H:%? %1`%82=%4`%100="

Pretty straight forward really. Backticks (%{1-4}`) call other scripts, the rest of it is documented in the manual under STRING ESCAPES. One thing I will say is that when using backticks to return strings don't return multiple lines and never put a sleep in a backtick. For instance, if you use awk don't have multiple print statements. Concat the string into a variable and then print the variable at the end, e.g.

uptime=`uptime | awk -F , '{gsub (/ /, " ", $1); gsub (/ /, " ", $2); foo = substr($1,match($1,/up/)); if ($2 !~ /users/) foo = foo "," $2; print foo}'`


caption splitonly "%?%F%{.kw}%:%{.wk}%3n %t%{= ww}%? %-Lw%?%F%{+b}%:%{= ww}%?%n%f* %t%{-}%+Lw%<"

This was a bit of a pain. You can't add a string escape to the focused window's caption but you can add one to those that don't have focus. %?%F focus! %: background. you can put %H here %?, basically. This is because of how %? works. So the workaround is to change the text colour to match the background. Pretty sloppy but it works.

* * *

desktop.jpg [384Kb]

Got a gmail account as soon as I got back online (who doesn't have one now?). It seems to be webmail done right. I'm not a huge fan of email though (s/n ratio is way too high for me) so meh. I wish they were still rare so I could swap invites for nudie pics of college cuties.

User Journal

Journal Journal: POTS tomorrow

Hopefully a team of (orange :p) BT engineers will install a telephone line for me tomorrow. Gee, it's only been 3 weeks now...

In theory they won't need to rewire inside the house, merely run a line from the pole (which is about 8ft away, with the line passing directly over the roof) to the eave. That's because it's a converted outbuilding that had an extension running to it before. This seems like it should be a quick and simple procedure, but then it is being conducted by BT so...

* * *

/wishes that <HR> was allowed

I've written a shell script that acts as a simple bittorrent download manager (starting new downloads and stopping old ones). Here's a snippet:

# be a leech :/
  if ( grep "download succeeded!" /tmp/hardcopy.$i )
  screen -S torrents -X eval "select $i" "stuff q"
  sleep 60
  screen -S torrents -X eval "select $i" "kill"
  for ((j=0;j<$screens;j++))
    do screen -S torrents -X eval "select $(($j +1))" "number $j"

The second "select $i" is probably redundant but it's nice to make sure I don't kill the wrong window.

* * *

So, I'll be moving the this box back to my place and grabbing an old compaq p2-233 w/ 32mb for company. Pulled the cheap network card from the Athlon 800MHz. It doesn't seem to have a Linux driver (only an SCO Unix 5.0 driver) so I may have to get another card. I might be better off just building a cheap headless system then trying to resurrect this heap of junk.

These Shuttles look nice but a bit expensive. The damn bank is saying I can only withdraw 1/10th of my money, which is troubling. The balance sounds correct and I can't think of any debt that would wipe out the other 90% of my money. And, of course, you can't actually speak to a representitive over the phone...

update: Okay, now they're allowing me to withdraw my full balance. Good but wtf?

tomorrow: Well, according to Jon, who showed him in, the engineer has rewired the internals (one linebox) but has not joined it to the mainline. I'm now waiting on the pleasure of a 'jointer', a man qualified to climb a pole. Yeah, Maggie, that privitization idea really increased efficiency...

User Journal

Journal Journal: day 13 without internet

Originallu written Thursday June 04

off sick today. uptime is 3 days, 21h. cold and head aches. crafty seems better than gnuchess but is unable to mate in an end game. playing another match now (`xboard -fcp crafty -mg 10 -size medium -thinking -xreuse -tc 10 -inc 0`). i installed xp on an old 60gb, 5400rpm drive so i could play splinter cell. supposed to be getting "pandora tomorrow" today. also /supposed/ to be getting a grocery delivery. i hope so as there's absolutely nothing to eat here.

now crafty has a +5 pawn advantage. according to the faq v9.21, crafty has a Louget rating (comparable to a FIDE rating, apparently) of 2395 on a pentium pro 200 with a 56MB hash table. god only know what that works out to on a barton 2500+. no wonder i can't beat it! then again i do suck pretty bad.

i've almost 'finalized' my screen hardstatus now.

source .screenrc
backtick 1 5 60 /home/ninja/bin/hardstatus
backtick 2 10 10 cat /tmp/hardstatcon
backtick 3 10 10 /home/ninja/bin/gethstattorrents
hardstatus alwayslastline "%{= wk}%1=%c:%s %{= KW} %11=%{+b}%2`%{-b} %20=%3` %39=%H:%? %1` %82=%l%?"

which gives black time ("%H:%M%:%S") on light grey background, then white text on dark grey background (from left-to-right): status from green to red (represented as "i, i+, i++, i*, or i?"); dhs threatcon status (same as ics but with "t"; base level is 'elevated' [yellow?]); backtick 3 rotates between each torrent that's running on the screen session called 'torrents' status, the date ("%b %d %Y"), and days remaining until DSL is available on the local exchange ("54 days remain" :/); in the center is hostname followed by uptime/uptimed output, backtick 1 gives either uptime and uptimed rank ("up 3 days, 21:42 (2nd)"), time until next rank if lower than 3rd, or time til no1 if not 1st (if 1st, give time until next milestone); and finally system load averages.

the only thing that i plan on adding is rotating load averages with data off the wire. [now done]

in total, that's 97 lines of shell script to prettify my hardstatus. feh :/ it looks nice in pseudo-transparent fullscreen terminal, though :)

xboard: Match Crafty-19.10 vs. GNU Chess 5.07: final score 9-0-1

User Journal

Journal Journal: sound

I've written this entry once but I guess I forgot to save it :/

Anyway, following the FUD on Linux soundcard support earlier this week, I'm pleased to report that my onboard audio is now pushing out glorious 5.1 sound. Huzzah! Thanks to the alsa-project and kernel 2.6.5.

If you have an Abit AN7 board, you might find my post helpful.

Unfortunately, upgrading to the new kernel didn't go completely smoothly. My modem driver (Linuxant) wouldn't compile until I changed version.h, and then it locked twice over the weekend. Chat and ppp could also be culperable. I've switched to p(on|off).wvdial and added time/date based conditions to ip-down to make it redial only at certain times. I had to do that because it doesn't seem to respect 'persist' in /etc/ppp/peers/wvdial. And I have to do this because my ISP frowns on users being connected for more than 20hrs a day. Roll on ADSL...

When it's available here (97 days from now) I am sure it's going to be utterly disappointing. 1 or 2 mbps down/256kbps up. How utterly pathetic. I really didn't know how good I had it when I was at an Internet2 college. I think the best speeds I managed were 8mbps down/2.4mbps up. Broadband Britain indeed.

The cost is quite outrageous too. ~£90 pounds per month for 2mbps down or ~£40 pounds for 1mbps. Upload is 256kbps with both packages. There are some ISPs that offer 2mbps for close to £30 but how long they'll be around is something to consider. They might be cheap but if they go bankrupt that's no good to me. Also, I've heard reports that their service/speeds aren't great either. It's looking like I'm going to opt for a 1mbps line from reliable ISP like It's probably the least hassle. If I find I need more bandwidth then I'll have to suck it up and put down the extra money, I guess.

Gnome2.6 is okay, not really worth the upgrade, imo. Nautilus is faster. Acme/Keyboard Shortcuts no longer works (known bug) for me. The Arstechnia people were dead on about the OO metaphor not going far enough. That's something for 2.8 to improve upon :)

I have The Confusion sitting on my desk, impaled with a makeshift bookmark 1/10th of the way through. I don't know, I just don't find the Baroque Cycle particularly engrossing :/

I'm hankering for a wardriving rig, just a secondhand laptop, but even used it's just an obscene amount of money for a low spec machine. It would be cheaper to build a carputer but then I lose a certain amount of freedom. Plus having an lcd and keyboard in the car looks bizarre and attracts theives.

firefox's uptime is 56:15 with over 40 tabs open...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Free again

I've been using fdoX for the past 11 days or so but it's back to XFree for me now. Xserver is great, don't get me wrong, but it's still far from stable (well, duh!). And I think I'm going to eschew building from cvs just to mangle myself on the bleeding edge.

Debian/unstable's upstream isn't as fast as I might like but the added benefits (reduced downloads and hassle) more than makes up for it.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ill Done

That was ill done.

Just lost 14% of a torrent and 60% of a donkey file by messing around with mldonkey's temp files. Possibly some others are messed up. Shalln't be doing that again.

Won't be trusting mldonkey with torrents at all anymore. Now that I have discovered GNU/Screen, it's btdownloadcurses all the way, baby! It seems faster, too, but I'll have to wait to verify that.

95% over the flu which kept me off work last week. Still had huge coughing fit before going to sleep last night. Tomorrow is my first early morning since Thursday. God it's going to blow.

XAnalogTV and Apple2 are "wicked cool XP®" screensavers. Analog really freaks out non-geeks :)

Right speaker crapped out but the left is fine, even though the left takes it's input from the right. Sort of serial, I guess. Took the right one apart but couldn't see anything obviously wrong with it. Put it back together and it worked(!) for a little bit. Ordered some Videologic 5.1s anyway. Saved £20 quid off this getting it from Amazon Marketplace. I have no idea where I'll put the other 3 speakers or the sub in this little room. I just couldn't resist a bargin!

Also bought a Victorinox SwissTool CS (comes w/ corkscrew, wrenches, pouch -- the top of the line model) after it was recommended in the comments of the USB penknife story. I'd been contemplating buying a Gerber but I've always loved the build quality of a Swiss army knife. My grandfather bequeathed me his old 5 feature one when I was 6. Not that I was ever allowed to use it, of course. My parents didn't even want me playing with toy guns. Just holding it under their watchful eyes I could feel it was an object of power and beauty (with +5 Utility). Saved £20 quid on this getting it off of ebay (yay!).

I also found someone selling a product for £30 quid a unit that you can get for £42 quid for 2 if you import from the States. I'm sure this is what they're doing, too. I might try importing & selling a few myself. "Lovely-jubbly!"

What, no pound signs? Bah!

Bad taste follows:

perl -e 'use Date::Manip; $date = DateCalc("sep 11 2001", "mar 11 2004", \$err); print Delta_Format($date,1,"%dt");'

You can just imagine Osama shouting, "It's a leap year you idiots!"

(Sorry, I know I'm going to hell.)


Journal Journal: Toy Story

So this is debian.

I've installed Woody and am now updating to Sid, and for the first time in seconds I find my self wishing for broadband.

Updating some packages is a necessity in my case as this version of xfree86 doesn't work with my card/monitor. So I'm stuck in VGA with Lynx2.8.4rel.1 (from 2001). On the plus side I have 725mb of free memory for a change.

Oddly enough I can't find a 2.6.3 kernel source package for debian but I can for SuSE. I tried it, too, but alsa didn't work. It does with the SuSE 2.4 kernel but whatever. This will be something for me to try over the next couple of days. It doesn't matter if I fuck anything up this far into the install. I have this sneaking suspicion that by the time I'm ready there will be a 2.6.3 image anyway. Not quite as bleeding edge as Gentoo, eh? Then again the install took minutes and not hours so I won't complain.

User Journal

Journal Journal: fehdora

So, the parts didn't get delivered today. Ach, weil.

I might do well to get a SATA drive for the new system. Trouble is I wouldn't be able to install Woody on it. It should be possible to install on an IDE drive, update the to the 2.6 kernel, and then copy that across to the SATA. Maybe.

It's a non-issue until I can afford to buy one, anyway. Advice: Don't lend people who do drugs money. You never know when you might need it.

Can't work out where half the money in my current account has gone this week. Okay, that's a little misleading. I don't have a savings account because I'm dirt poor, I just have one account that gets emptied every month. This month I sucked it dry faster than usual. Probably the rent payment hadn't been deducted when I last checked the balance.

Halted gnoppix download and ordered a copy of morphix-gnome-0.4-1, but hopefully I'll have a working desktop before it arrives. Unless I need a new processor, too...

The thing that annoys me the most about this is it's stopped me from getting 24 day 3 and alias episodes. I don't think either will be corrupted -- 'luckily' the damage to hda2 seems to be mostly in /boot/ & /etc/ -- but who knows?

Slashdot Top Deals

System going down at 5 this afternoon to install scheduler bug.